Ending sexual violence

Ending sexual violence: “now we know the facts we cannot turn aside”

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 11:50 GMT Jump to Comments

The End Sexual Violence In Conflict Global Summit has begun in earnest today with rousing speeches from Foreign Secretary William Hague and Special Envoy Angelina Jolie.

Women and children across the world in war-torn countries including Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan and Somalia are experiencing sexual torture used as a weapon of war, Hague and Jolie said at the conference in London today.

“Ending sexual violence in conflict is above all a moral issue for our generation," Hague said. “Today, the facts are beginning to emerge for all to see. As was said of slavery in the 18th Century, ‘now we know the facts we cannot turn aside.’”

Hague added that soldiers and peacekeeping organisations alike must be trained in how to deal appropriately with sexual violence.

Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy for the UN Commissioner for Refugees, said: “It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. It is nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.”

Jolie warns that societies too often “tolerate” perpetrators of this form of violence, adding that shame should always be on the aggressor.

The three-day event will continue tomorrow with the launch of an International Protocol to strengthen prosecutions for rape in conflict, a crime which so infrequently results in justice. On the final day, leaders from 117 countries will discuss how to increase support for survivors and shift the culture of blame from victims onto the perpetrators.

The event as a whole will tackle four key areas of a culture which allows war crimes of this nature to remain prevalent; the infrequent punishment of criminals of this type, the physical and practical barriers to reaching vulnerable people, the inherent risks to the lives of those that draw attention to sexual violence, and the common attitude that sexual violence is a 'lesser' crime than other forms of physical violence. 

"The use of rape as a weapon of war has led to its normalisation, thereby eroding all limits and social constraints against sexual and gender-based violence, worsening the phenomenon and its consequences for women," human rights defender Julienne Lusenge said in a blog post for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ahead of the event. 

Lusenge, who works closely with survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, added: "It is critical that the eradication of sexual violence against women and girls be implemented jointly and in a spirit of partnership with local actors on the ground in order to respond to the real needs."

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